Catechesis in Stone 1

The whole church should be arranged so as to invite adoration and contemplation even where there are no celebrations. One must long to frequent it in order to meet the Lord there... The church, by its beautiful liturgical layout, its tabernacle radiating Christ's real presence, should be the beautiful house of the Lord and of His Church, where the faithful love to recollect themselves in the silence of adoration and contemplation. Every church must be "praying" even when no liturgical celebrations are taking place; it must be a place where in a restless world, one can meet the Lord in peace.

These words by a catholic theologian on church architecture aptly capture the impetus behind the renovation that took place within the church.

The answer to the question of why the use of symbols presently found in Church of St Francis Xavier (SFX) can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1145 and #1146. To paraphrase - as social beings we communicate in signs and symbols through language, gestures and actions, and this holds true of our relationship with God. Moreover on the subject of Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings within the context of the Church, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy speaks thus - she has inherited "a treasury of art which must be preserved with every care".

For instance, the CCC #1161 says the holy images (as seen in SFX - the stained glass windows, portraits of St Ignatius and St Francis Xavier, the statutes) - all the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are scared images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the "cloud of witnesses" who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whim we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations.

Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church... we rightly define with full certainly and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God,, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets. (Council of Nicaea II: DS600)

Within its stone walls and furnishings, our church speaks to us of our Lord and our faith. And so, it timely that we begin a catechetical series on the SFX PS as she is today...

ONE
The Lectern
In the utilisation of beautiful design and fine materials, the lectern represents the dignity and uniqueness of the Word of God and is in itself a reflection on that Word.

Each side of the lectern, therefore represents the three readings of the Holy Mass i.e. the Tablets of Stone (the Old Testament), the Bible with the Sword (the New Testament) and the Four Evangelists (the Gospel readings).

The Four Evangelists (front side)
The following symbols originated from the four living creature that draw the throne-chariot of God, in the vision in the Book of Ezekiel (Chapter 1) reflected in the Book of Revelation (4: 6-9ff), though neither source links the creature to the Evangelists.

Matthew the Evangelist - is symbolised by a winged man. His Gospel proclaims that in Jesus Christ, of the line of David, the old covenant found its fulfilment. His Gospel differs from the others in that it opens with the human genealogy of Jesus, and it is this fact that yields Matthew's special emblem, namely, a human or angelic face. His role as an evangelist is depicted, intent on writing under the inspiration of an angel: an angel or a winged man is his principal attribute.

Mark the Evangelist - is symbolised by a winged lion. The gospel of Mark, written in Greek, is the shortest of the four. Mark is represented mainly as an evangelist, and his principal at tribute is a winged lion, because he begins his Gospel by speaking of John the Baptist, whose voice was like the roar of a lion in the wilderness.

Luke the Evangelist - is symbolised by a winged ox because his Gospels opens with the sacrifice offered by Zechariah. It is a figure of sacrifice, service and strength.

John the Evangelist - is symbolised by an angle, a figure of the sky, the heavens; spirit. John was a witness of the Transfiguration, in his writings he proved himself a theologian, proclaiming the glory of the Word incarnate whom it was his privilege to contemplate. He is called the Evangelist, the Theologian, and in France "the Divine", because of the profound character of his Gospel, in which he fixed his gaze on the depths of the divinity, just as an eagle (it was believed) could fix its gaze on the sun. As the result, his principal attribute is an eagle and is often found carved on pulpits and ambos.


The Dove
Directly above the group of four - the dove is sacred art represents the Holy Spirit and as Holy Scripture is inspired by God, it is aptly used at the lectern.

Lily
The lily symbolises purity. It is the primary attribute of the Blessed Virgin Mary but used here on the lectern - it is a symbol of the Holy trinity. You will see this symbol used at other parts of the sanctuary.

Tablets of Stone
On the left side of the lectern, these symbolise the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mt Sinai. They may also be used to represent the whole of God's law, the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, the Torah), or the entire Old Testament.

The Word of Truth
On the right side of the lectern, portrayed with an open book, the symbol represents the sword of the Spirit, or the word of truth, the Gospel.

TWO
Baldacchino
In our church, the baldachinum or baldacchino of the Altar is attached to the wall and is stationary unlike the original cloth canopies found in many cathedrals. Its structure is that of an inverted ciborium. The name is late medieval, baldacchino, from Baldocco, the italian form of Bagdad where the previous cloths that were used to make cloth canopies were made. The baldacchino was created to give the altar a more dignified setting.

THREE
Baptismal Font
The baptismal font is a sign of God's covenant with His people. The font holds water which the priest pours over the head of the one being baptised. The font often has an octagonal and new life.

An interesting architectural feature of the SFX font is the inclusion of an ambry built into the baptismal font at its sides. It is used for the storage of oils used in sacraments: Oil of Catechumens (indicated by the Latin letters O.C.), Oil of the Sick (O.I.) and Sacred Chrism (S.C.). The amber us understandably secured and locked.

Oil of Catechumens (Oleum Catechumenorum): to anoint people before they are baptised, it is a physical prayer that God will protest and strengthen the one to be baptised enable them to live as good Catholics. When the priest uses this oil he prays "... may Christ strengthens you with His power...".

Oil of the Sick (Oleum Infirmorum): blessed and used just as it was said in the letter of St James in the Scriptures - "are there any sick among you, then call for the priests who will pray over them and anoint them with oil..."When this oil us used, the priest prays that "through this holy anointing, may the Lord in His love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit..."

Oil of Chrism (Oleum Ad Sanctum Chrisma): Used on priests' hands at their ordination. It is also used in the baptismal rite and most importantly, to anoint the foreheads of those receiving Confirmation. Those anointed will remain "forever a member of Christ, who is Priest, Prophet and King".

The dove affixed in brass atop the font is a common feature of Sacred Art. It represents the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity and also refers to John the Baptist's protection that he saw the Holy Spirit descent upon Jesus.


FOUR
Presider's Chair
GIRM stresses the symbol of the chair as the seat of authority of the one presiding: presiding in charity, as St Ignatius of Antioch would say of the Bishop of Rome and as we would say of all bishops and priests presiding over this assembly of the faithful in persona Christi.

FIVE
Credence Table
Places within the sanctuary of a church, for the purpose of holding the cruets, acolytes' candles, and other utensils required for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. The credence, properly so called, is contemplated only in connexion with solemn Masses; on it the chalice, paten, corporal, and veil are placed from the beginning of the Mass until the Offertory.